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September 16, 2018

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
Constitution Sunday – Year B
Deacon Cindy Roehl

Today is Constitution Sunday. On this day we commemorate the formation and signing of the U.S. Constitution by thirty-nine brave men on September 17, 1787. This is an important day in our nation’s history.

We are pleased to have with us this morning the Pinellas and Pasco Counties Regents’ Council of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Clearwater Chapter and the St. Petersburg Chapter Sons of the American Revolution to help us remember that day.

As we know, the American Revolution was a colonial revolt that took place between 1765 and 1783. The American Patriots in the Thirteen Colonies won independence from Great Britain, becoming the United States of America. They defeated the British in the American Revolutionary War in alliance with France and others.

Three years before the war finally ended, these 39 men came together and began the work of
designing a form of government for these United States. September 17, 1787 was their last meeting at which time they were able to put their signatures on this document setting up a government that has held our country together for 231 years.

Many of us can quote at least the first few words of the Preamble to our Constitution. I will read it to you slowly:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The words of this Preamble show the concern our forefathers had for all human beings – the desire that all people be treated equally, with justice, and caring for their general welfare. And no one can deny that many of the founding fathers of these United States of America were men of deep religious convictions based in the Bible and faith in Jesus Christ.

George Washington said, “While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian.”

Patrick Henry said, “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Our readings this morning could not be more appropriate.

In our first reading this morning from Micah the people of Israel were encouraged to remember all that God had done for their nation, that they “might learn to recognize the righteous acts of the Lord.”

God had acted so many times for their benefit – and still does for our benefit throughout our lives. When we remember and recognize the righteous acts of the Lord in our own lives, we, like the Israelites may get to the point where we ask, “With what should I approach the Lord and bow down before God on high?” With what should I approach the Lord…

Now, that’s not asking what can I do for God so that he’ll do something nice for me. Which reminds me of an anecdote I read recently:

Where a man was running late for a meeting and desperately looking for a parking space. He prays, ‘Lord, if you can help me to find a parking space, I promise I’ll go to Mass every week for the rest of my life and I’ll give away the whiskey!’ Even as he says his prayer, a parking space miraculously appears in front of him. He looks to Heaven and says, ’Lord, you don’t need to worry about it. I’ve found one.’

If you HAVE ever asked the question Micah mentions, “With what should I approach the Lord…?” acknowledging all that God has done for you, or me, or Good Shepherd even, Micah says, “He has told you, human one, what is good and what the Lord requires from you: to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God.”

We are to care for all people. Not considering ourselves any better than the next person. Someone might be different than us, might be less advantaged, or may be MORE advantaged. Whatever makes us uncomfortable with them, it may be they have had some tremendous failings or situations in the way they were brought up, been mistreated thus causing them to act out in a certain way. We’ve not walked in their shoes, but God has told us “to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God.”

And then the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to Timothy, “First of all, (FIRST of all), I ask that requests, prayers, petitions, and thanksgiving be made for ALL people. Pray for kings and everyone who is in authority …”

Ouch! Pray for kings and everyone who is in authority…

Does that sound like too much? Does he say to appreciate everyone who is in authority? No, he says to pray for them. They need prayer. Those in authority need more prayer because of the responsibility that’s laid on them. Do we have to like what they’re doing to pray for them?

Those whom we may disagree with in how they’re handling things should be prayed for the most. Do you know God can answer prayer?

Years ago I knew of a church where the people would complain about their pastor. They didn’t like his sermons. They didn’t like how he was treating some people in the congregation. And the complaints and bickering went on and on. Then a group of them decided to start praying for him. Every Saturday evening they started meeting together to pray for their pastor. The pastor didn’t know about these prayer sessions, but it was interesting how they actually started noticing a difference in his sermons. He somehow started showing a more sincere caring about those in his congregation. What made the difference? They’re not really sure, but…

Paul continues in his letter by saying we are to pray for them, “…so that WE can live a quiet and peaceful life in complete godliness and dignity. This is right and it pleases God our savior, who wants ALL people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. There is one God and one mediator between God and humanity, the human Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a payment to set ALL people free.”

In our Gospel reading this morning Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you SO THAT you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both the evil AND the good, and sends rain on both the righteous AND the unrighteous.”

Our true worship is to do the work of God’s justice and love everyday…

I’m reminded of our Baptismal Covenant where we are asked:
Celebrant: Will you seek and serve Christ in ALL persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?

People: I will, with God’s help.

Celebrant: Will you strive for justice and peace among ALL people, and respect the dignity of EVERY human being?

People: I will, with God’s help.

I can’t emphasize the importance of treating everyone with love and justice and dignity without acknowledging that YOU may be the one who so greatly needs it. Maybe you’re going through something in your life causing you to question all this. You’re ready to run away from God and hide, you don’t know where to turn (certainly you wouldn’t dream of asking the person sitting next to you for help). But maybe you should.

None of us are perfect, but in my experience here at Good Shepherd, I can honestly say we have some of the most caring, giving and loving family right here. Are we perfect? No. Do we, even here at Good Shepherd, make mistakes? Yes. But I look out among you and see a family that genuinely cares about each other, as well as for those out in our community.

And I believe we can do even more. We’re already planning on a Thanksgiving Dinner for those out in our community who don’t have a family to join at the holiday table. Up to 250 people will be fed this Thanksgiving right here.

And as we, individually, spend time each day with our Lord, asking him to guide us in our walk with him, to show us opportunities and make ourselves available to him, I believe this parish will be able to reach out so much more in ways we haven’t considered.

Lord, as I meet someone today who has a need, whether physically, spiritually or emotionally, in need of justice, in need of love, give me the words, show me your will. And as Samuel said when he was very young, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”